All About Hunting in Alaska

Alaska, the largest U.S. State by area, offers a variety of hunting opportunities to hunting enthusiasts around the world. With black bear, caribou, moose on the list, it is a much sought after destination for big game hunting.

You can also choose to take your kids grouse or hare hunting, or you may want to go on a high stakes, once-in-a-lifetime brown bear or mountain goat hunt.

Careful planning and preparation, as well as a thorough knowledge of the habitat and hunting regulations, will ensure that your hunting trip to Alaska is one for the ages. 

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1. What Species to Hunt in Alaska?

An appealing fact while choosing Alaska as your hunting destination is that it has more big-game species available for hunting than any other state in the country. Overlapping ranges and season mean that multi-species hunts are also a possibility.

1.1 Bison

Alaska offers hunting possibilities for two bison species: the plains bison and the wood bison. The wood bison is pretty much Alaska’s largest big-game animal and needs a drawing permit to be hunted.

The only exception to this is some private herds on Kodiak island, owned by farmers who may allow hunting on their land, occasionally, for a specific fee.

1.2 Black Bears

Black bears are found throughout the state of Alaska, excepting a few areas. As such, they have both a spring and fall season. Spring hunts commence in April and go on till May, and even extend to June in some regions.

In the fall months, they are hunted from late August into the month of October. Black bears can be hunted by a variety of methods.

They can be hunted by cruising shoreline areas in a boat looking for bears, or spotting and stalking. It is possible to hunt lack bears using bait in certain areas, under certain regulations.

It may not be legal everywhere so hunters need to make sure they know all the regulations and are following the proper protocols even when engaging in baiting.

1.3 Brown or Grizzly Bear

There are distinctions between brown bears and grizzly bears that re recognised by an experienced hunter. But with regard to hunting rules and regulations, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game treats them the same.

Seasons, bag limits, and other regulatory issues are the same for both these types. Methods of hunting include rifle, muzzleloader guns and archery. Bait and dogs are not allowed for the most part.

1.4 Caribou

Caribou are a species that are common in Alaska and very popular for hunting. They are a herd animal that may wander a great distance over the year, moving from winter ranges to summer ranges. These migratory trails are a great place to hunt them.

1.5 Dall Sheep

These are found in the most mountainous regions of Alaska and are perfect for those looking to infuse a little adventure on high terrain into their hunt.

Primarily, sheep are hunted on the Wrangell mountains, the Kenai Mountains, the Chugach mountains, etc. You can get there by aircraft or even the road system, although the latter option is more limited, owing to accessibility issues.

1.6 Deer

The Sitka Blacktail deer is Alaska’s only native deer species and is found in southeast Alaska as well as islands of Prince William Sound, and the Kodiak/Agognak archipelago.

1.7 Elk

Alaska had two species of transplanted elk, namely, Roosevelt elk and Rocky Mountain elk. They can be found in southeast Alaska, but mostly exist on Afognak and Raspberry Islands. These are a hunter’s dream as they are available exclusively through the drawing of permits.

1.8 Goat

The Rocky Mountain goat is a magnificent animal to hunt in the state of Alaska. The scenery in goat hunting regions offers an added incentive to hunters. This goat is found on the Southeast panhandle, as well as the Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak Island and certain parts of south-central Alaska.

1.9 Moose

The Alaska-Yukon moose of western Yukon and Alaska is the largest moose found in North America, with body weights sometimes in excess of 1500 lbs. and heights of up to 7 ft. at the shoulder. These are the second-largest land mammal behind the bison, which can be found in North America.

There are a number of challenges associated with moose hunting owing to their low population density, habitat, and the logistics of moving an animal of that size, but it still remains an extremely popular hunting animal.

1.10 Muskoxen

Muskoxen used to be available in large numbers across Alaska. Although their numbers have dwindled, they are still prevalent enough to make hunting possible, throughout the Arctic and on some islands off the West Coast of Alaska.

They are hunted by a drawing permit and there is great competition for the few tags available.

1.11 Wolf

Wolves can be anywhere in Alaska and being an apex predator impact the populations of moose, caribou, Dall sheep, goat, etc.

Wolves can be heard often, but are difficult to hunt as they travel in a pack and are usually very intelligent such that they see you and escape before you have a chance to see them.

Long shots in wolves are common and hunters ought to be prepared to take them as and when needed.

How To Hunt Alaska

2. Seasons

2.1 Big Game

Hunting big game such as black bear, brown bear, and grizzly bear, is possible from September through June. These are general dates, and actual dates vary greatly according to region.

Bear hunting is much sought after, and sometimes, after a bear is hunted down, hunters may need to wait 1-4 years to be able to hunt another bear.

For caribou, deer, elk and mountain goat, the hunting season runs from August through December. Depending on the region, year-round hunting may also be possible.

Moose hunting starts in September and can go on through October. Wolf hunting happens from August to May and wolverine season goes on from September to February.

2.2 Small Game

For small game, the seasons can run from August to April. The hare has a season that runs from September throughout April, while grouse can be hunted from August to May.

Crow can be hunted from March to April while certain species, dependent on local rules and regulations can be hunted all year round. Some such species are pheasant, partridge, wild turkey, quail, and snowy owl.

3. Where Can You Hunt?

3.1 Public Lands

Alaska offers much in hunting by the way of public lands that are managed by state and federal governments.

State lands are open for hunters unless specific state, local or municipal laws exist for their closure.

Alaska also has state park lands where certain parts of the system are open to hunting. The discharge of firearms and other regulations will be different for different parks.

Even so, most national parks are closed to hunting, but some Alaska national parks are open for hunting by qualified Alaska residents in rural areas, under National Park regulations.

National preserve areas and state refuge lands are open to hunting, but there may be registration or access requirements. As for federal public lands, most of them are open to hunting as long as state regulations are followed.

Almost all National Wildlife Refuge, National Forest, and Bureau of Land Management lands are open to the general public for hunting.

How to Hunt Alaska

3.2 Private Lands

A large portion of Alaska’s lands, especially those next to the road system, are privately owned. State hunting regulations apply to private land as well. If you want to hunt on private lands, you need to make sure you have permission from the owner of the land, as otherwise, you will be trespassing.

Native village and regional corporations account for the largest part of private land ownership. On these lands, you will probably need to get a land-use permit and/or pay any fees as required by the appropriate land management association.

Some military lands may also allow access to citizens for hunting. If you want to hunt on military land, you must have a recreation access permit, and access fees may be charged.

For information on the status of the land you intend to hunt on, you can contact either the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR). In addition to land status information, you can also access information regarding the roads, trails, and campsites that can be used to reach the public lands.

3.3 License Requirements

In Alaska, you require a license for pretty much all types of hunting. There are different licenses available depending on whether you are a resident, non-resident, military member, resident senior above 60 years or a resident disabled veteran.

Most licenses can be obtained online. You can have printed or electronic licenses (available at ADF&G offices, license vendors and online store), eSigned licenses (only on online store) or carbon copy licenses (being phased out and hence available only at some vendors).

Licenses are valid from the date of purchase to December 31st of each year. Unless you have a trapping license, which is valid from the start date to September 30th of the following year, or a short-term resident fishing license valid for the duration they are bought for.

3.4 Age Requirements

For resident hunters under the age of eighteen, a hunting license is not required, unless they are guiding another hunter. Non-residents under the age of 16 do need a hunting license.

3.5 Senior Citizen License

In case of resident seniors who are 60 years of age or older, they will need to obtain a senior permanent identification card affirming their status as a resident of Alaska and a senior citizen, in order to hunt.

At any point, if they are no longer a resident of Alaska the card will be void. They may also not apply if they have residency licenses in any other state, or have any residency privileges in other states.

3.6 Resident Disabled Veteran License

Alaska also honours its resident disabled veterans by providing them with a complimentary hunting license, to whoever meets the state’s definition of a disabled veteran.

These can be gotten by applying at the online store or at a Fish and Game office. Both the resident senior’s card and the disabled veteran’s license are issued free of charge.

3.7 Military Licenses

Alaska offers a complimentary hunting and fishing license for residents who actively serve in the military: Alaska’s National Guard, U.S. Army Reserves, U.S. Air Force Reserves, U.S. Navy Reserves, U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, U.S. Coast Guard Reserves.

In addition to this, it also offers licenses to non-resident military members at discounted rates such as those applicable to residents.

3.8 Resident Low-Income Licenses

Alaska also offers something known as resident low-income licenses wherein a person whose family’s total income falls bellows the poverty guidelines specified by the state can purchase a hunting, trapping or fishing license for $5.00.

Resident vs Non-resident Hunting Licenses with Randy Newberg

4. Hunters Education

In certain areas of Alaska, hunter education is mandatory before hunting is allowed. The course provides training in firearms safety, wildlife conservation, as well as respect for natural resources.

On graduating, you will receive a lifetime certification that is recognised by all U.S. States, and some provinces of Canada and Mexico.

Hunter education is strongly recommended as evidence has shown that the course has decreased hunting-related accidents and brought about an improvement in hunter skills and attitudes.

These are the areas in which you need to have mandatorily completed hunter education:

  • Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge (1C)
  • Eagle River Management Area (14C)
  • Eklutna Lake Management Area (14C)
  • Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge (14C)
  • Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Management Area (JBER) (14C)
  • Palmer/Wasilla Management Area (14A)

Hunters born after January 1, 1986, who are 18 years old or older need to have successfully completed a hunter education course before hunting in certain areas of Alaska.

For hunters below 18 years of age, a hunter education course is necessary unless they are hunting under direct and immediate supervision on a licensed hunter who has completed the course or who was born after Jan 1, 1986. If participating in youth hunts, all hunters need to have completed the course.

In addition to the mandatory hunter’s education course, the hunter needs to take a course for the specific weapon they are using. So a bowhunter will have to take the bowhunting course before being legally allowed to hunt.

4.1 Traditional Hunter Education Course

For the in-person instructor-led course, you just need to pick up a hunter education packet at any Fish and Game office, after which you can sign up in a logbook for a course in your area.

You need to study the course material and complete the workbook before you go to attend the classroom portion of the course that will be led by certified volunteer instructors. The classroom part of the course is 8 hours long.

Once you are done with that you will have a 50 question multiple-choice written test and a field course and shooting proficiency test. Once that is done you will officially receive your hunter education certificate. 

4.2 Internet Hunter Education Course

For the online course, you can sign up online on the website. Once you have finished the course material online with all the practice tests, you need to print out an official Hunter Education Field Day certificate.

Then you will receive an email allowing you to sign up for a field day event. You need to attend a field day where you will be required to complete a field course and a required proficiency shoot.

The field needs to be completed in Alaska at a State-administered course. Only after successfully completing both these parts of the course, you will be allowed to receive your certification.

5. Rules and Regulations

5.1 Distance Regulations

You may not shoot on, across or from any constructed road or highway in the State.

5.2 Legal Hunting Hours

Alaska does not stipulate any official legal hunting hours, but you cannot go wrong if you follow the starting at 30 minutes before sunrise and stopping 30 minutes after sunset rule.

5.3 Hunter Orange Requirement

Alaska does not require hunters to wear hunter orange clothing but it is recommended as investigators claim that it reduces hunting accidents. It will also help you track your partners in the field.

5.4 Bag Limit

According to the game, there will be specific tag permits or bag limits.

How to Draw Tags and Find Hunts in Alaska

5.5 Can You Hunt at Night?

Depending on the specific type of animal, you may or may not be allowed to hunt at night. You are not allowed to use artificial sources of light for hunting unless you are using them to track and dispatch an already wounded animal. But you are not allowed to be using a motorized vehicle while using artificial light.

6. Bowhunting

In any area that is restricted to bow and arrow hunting, there are a few regulations to be taken into account:

1. The hunter may not hunt with a crossbow.

2. The hunter should not use a bow that is designed to shoot more than one arrow at a time.

3. The hunter should not hunt with expanding gas arrows.

4. The hunter should not use poisons or any paralyzing agents.

Hunting in Alaska: The Essential Equipment

6.1 Bow and Arrow Requirements

For big game hunting, your bow needs to have minimum 40 lbs. draw weight while hunting black-tailed deer, wolf, wolverine, black bear, caribou, and Dall sheep. In the case of mountain goat, muskox, and bison, you need to have a peak draw weight of 50 lbs.

The arrow needs to be a broadhead that is at least 20 inches in length, and 300 grains in weight. The broadhead cannot be barbed and must be a fixed, replaceable, or mechanical/retractable type.

The use of electronic devices such as scopes, or lights, or anchors is prohibited. However, you may use a non-illuminating camera or lighted nock on the end of the arrow, or a battery-powered sight light.

For crossbows, which are not allowed in bow and arrow restricted areas but may be allowed in certain other areas, the requirements are that the crossbow needs to be at least 100 pounds of peak draw weight.

The bolt needs to be 16 inches, and a broadhead, with minimum 300 grains in weight. The broadhead should not be barbed, and the rules for electronic devices are the same as for a bow and arrow. The crossbow also needs to be shoulder-mounted.

The hunter is not allowed to hunt big game with a slingbow or an airbow.

7. Prohibited Practices

  • The use of motor vehicles such as an aircraft, airboat, snow-machine, motor-driven boat, etc. to drive, herd or chase game is prohibited unless the motor has been shut off and the vehicle has stopped moving. Motorized vehicles may be allowed under some conditions such as hunting caribou or selecting wolves and bears to hunt.
  • The hunter cannot incapacitate animals using poisons or other substances or even a Taser-type electronic device unless they have a special permit from the Department of Fish and Game.
  • Hunters cannot use a helicopter for hunting or for transportation of hunters, hunting gear, game meat, trophies, etc. The only way helicopter use will be authorized is to rescue hunters when in a life-threatening situation.
  • Hunters cannot use a pit, fire, laser sights (except rangefinders), night vision, infrared devices, wireless communication devices, devices that can be used to spot game with the use of a camera or video device, explosives, smoke, deer urine, elk urine or chemicals.
  • Electronic calls are legal for all game animals except moose. And scent lures may be used for ungulates and black bear (only if you have a bear trapping permit)
  • It is illegal to use wireless communication to take a specific animal until after 3:00 a.m. on the following day after the device has been used. Communication equipment may be used for safety purposes as long as it is not used to take game.
  • Hunters cannot use a trap or a snare to take big game, fur animals, or small game, except in some cases such as grouse, hare and ptarmigan.
  • Hunters must not intentionally feed deer, elk, wolf, bear, moose, coyote, fox, wolverine, sheep or other wildlife, or even leave food, mineral supplements or garbage to attract these animals. The only case allowed is using unsalvageable game parts to hunt wolves, fox and wolverine. Use of any other form of bait will be a violation. Bears can be baited under certain conditions.
  • The hunter may not wear footgear with felt soles or other such absorbent fibrous material.
  • The hunter is not allowed to take a cub bear or even a sow accompanied by cubs, unless under very specific regulations as stipulated by the state.
  • The hunter cannot shoot big game from a boat unless they are in possession of a permit to hunt from a boat.
  • The hunter is not allowed to shoot big game while they are swimming, except for caribou in specific areas.
  • The hunter must not hunt sheep, mountain goat, or muskox, with domestic goats or sheep as pack animals.
  • The hunter cannot use dogs for hunting except for black bear while also having a permit issued by the department. A single, leashed dog can be used to track and dispatch a wounded animal.
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The state of Alaska offers multiple appealing hunting opportunities for any hunter looking for a great time. In order to fully and legally enjoy the experience, the hunter must be aware of the different rules and regulations of the state.

For further and detailed information on the topics covered in this article, visit the official website of the Alaska Fish and Game Department:


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